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What is the antonym for 'a deep wound'? 'A shallow wound'? Google offers only several hundred matches (whether singular or plural) which suggests it's not a common collocation.

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There is the noun flesh wound:

[Merriam-Webster]
: an injury involving penetration of the body musculature without damage to bones or internal organs

Generally, you hear this in the context of movies, TV shows, and other fiction where somebody gets shot, and it's used in the following type of dialogue, normally collocated with just:

"Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine. It's just a flesh wound."


Google Books Ngram Viewer shows that this is much more common than other descriptive terms such as shallow, superficial, surface, or minor.

flesh wound versus shallow superficial, surface, and minor

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  • A flesh wound can be deep – Sergey Zolotarev Jul 5 at 18:05
  • @SergeyZolotarev It's theoretically possible, but quite unlikely—and that's not how it's normally interpreted. In fact, I'd say it would be bizarre (idiomatically) to describe a deep wound as a flesh wound. For instance, nobody would describe a bullet that went in one side and came out the other as a flesh wound. They'd call it a through-and-through (gunshot) wound. – Jason Bassford Jul 5 at 18:06
  • It's the idiom. Yes, it makes no sense. (The best rant on the subject I've heard is fictional: "Flesh wound? Flesh wound? They're all flesh wounds! No one ever says "Ooh look! I've just been shot in the bones, but it missed my flesh completely!" -- but they still call them "flesh wounds.") – Mary Jul 5 at 18:10
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    @Mary That's probably why it's often qualified with just (or only). Which helps to mitigate some of the literal meaning of the phrase. But English is often irrational like this. – Jason Bassford Jul 5 at 18:16
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An antonym of "deep" in that context might be "superficial", so

A superficial wound

American Heritage Dictionary "superficial"

  1. Of, affecting, or being on or near the surface: a superficial wound.

You could also say surface wound

I think "a shallow wound" works, too.
In fact, I tried google search on "a shallow wound" and got almost 65,000 hits. It appears frequently at google books search too.

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  • You should've quoted 'shallow wound': google.ru/… – Sergey Zolotarev Jul 5 at 18:03
  • Try this link: tinyurl.com/y9q795kk That one shows 480,000 results. – Jack O'Flaherty Jul 5 at 20:09
  • @SergeyZolotarev Your link has a lot of extraneous stuff in it, limiting the search results. A google search on "shallow wound", without the "a", produces 480,000 hits. – Jack O'Flaherty Jul 5 at 20:30

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